Do you have something to say and share with others? Start a podcast, but don’t sell yourself short when trying to get your dream guests on the show. It takes connections.
Today’s guest is Stephanie Cox, vice president of sales and marketing at Lumavate. She hosts the company’s Real Marketers Podcast and has talked to guests from the world’s biggest companies. What did she do to make it happen, and how can you do the same with your own podcast?
Ben: Hi, Stephanie. How's it going?
Stephanie: It's good. How are you?
Ben: I'm doing fantastic this Wednesday that feels like a Tuesday because it's the week after Labor Day.
Stephanie: It's my favorite. I wish it felt like a Friday though, and it was Friday.
Ben: Yes, I agree. This is embarrassing because I work for a company that makes a calendar product, but I once infamously said out loud that I thought it was Friday unironically on a Tuesday, which was the worst.
Stephanie: I've been there. I’ve worked so much that it should be Friday.
Ben: I feel like if you're getting your 40 hours in by Tuesday, you should be able to take the rest of the week off.
Stephanie: I agree. They should make that a rule.
Ben: Yes. All right. Now that we have that established, would you mind taking a moment to introduce yourself to our audience and explain what you do?
Stephanie: I'm Stephanie Cox. I'm the VP of Sales and Marketing at Lumavate. We're a platform that enables marketers to build mobile apps without code. I have been in digital marketing and mobile space for 15 years. Worked at companies such as Ingersoll Rand, ExactTarget, Salesforce, and a whole host of others in B2C, B2B, and B2B2C.
Ben: Very cool. When you were first getting started with running podcasts—back when you had no experience, or knowledge, or expertise at all, which was the case for us when we started our show. It's crazy. I think it’s getting back to me about three or four years ago now. How did you begin the process of securing guests? I feel like that's one of the toughest things when you're getting started is just getting people to want to talk to you. How did you go about doing that?
Stephanie: One of the things I think for me when I started our show—which is maybe two and a half years ago—we were targeting marketers. Getting marketers to be on the show. I really thought, who do I know? Part of the reason for that was it's kind of like this old adage of companies want to do business with you when you've done business with other companies that look like them. Same thing with conferences, speaking engagements, and even podcasting.
The first thing I did was look at my network, and I've had the pleasure of working with some really talented marketers in my career that have gone on to other companies—some of which are super well-known. That's been really where I started. It's with my network, and I was strategic about it.
What's interesting about that is I started with probably the first five episodes are people I know personally that I had reached out to. My first guests were from Simon Property Group, which most people have been to at Simon Mall if they live in the United States. I also had someone from Aetna—a well-known health care, as well as AT&T (as another example).
I was strategic about how I launched them, so we dropped our first three episodes with the launch. My first episode with Simon Property Group, and then I sandwiched in a smaller company that people may not be as familiar with as episode two, and then brought about bigger companies for three and four. What happens then is once you have a couple of big names that you can name-drop when you do outreach, other people immediately give credibility to your podcast.
That's really what happened is I just combed through my network on LinkedIn, got started with the people I knew, and I also thought about who will be good guests. As much as people don't realize, it doesn't matter the name of the company on the show or the person's name. If they're not an engaging guest, people won't listen. And then you're just going to continue to get more and more people on your show [...] that few people listen to. I've also had that lens as well to get started.
Ben: It sounds like you were able to leverage a lot of personal connections to get things rolling. But I understand that you've also managed to get a lot of high profile guests from just mega huge companies with people that you did not know beforehand. Places like Google, Amazon, I think General Electric is in there, which I think for a lot of folks like that might sound like a pipe dream to get to actually talk to somebody on the inside at Google, Amazon, or one of these types of companies.
How long did it take for you to start landing these high profile guests of these just ginormous companies, not only to be able to get those guests to come on the show, but to do it with some amount of regularity?
Stephanie: It's about four weeks post-launch, and it's an interesting and funny story for people that know me. I started what we call a dream list. I love crazy ideas, so I love to implement things and have these big dreams. When we started the podcast, we created a list of dream brands—who will be the biggest guests? The whole goal was after the first year, we'll consider success if we can get a couple of these names on the show. That's really how we thought about it.
One of those happened to be Google. Lumavate is a platform that builds progressive apps, which is technology started by Google and the father of that technology is Alex Russell. He works at Google. He's really known for bringing that technology really to the world.
He was like the creme de la creme for us. Our plan was like, maybe nine months into the show, we'll reach out and see if we can get them on. It was the Friday before Christmas—this was 2018—and I was at work. I was doing some podcast outreach. As I mentioned, I started with people I know, but now I’m starting to outreach to other people.
I created a list of not extreme brands, but other brands I want to reach out to. I had a process for doing that. I realized I had a fever. I was like, I should go home. I went home and I was sitting in a recliner in my living room binge watching shows as I continue to podcast outreach because it was the end of the year and I wanted to get it to get done before I took some time off.
It was like 7:00 PM Eastern and I was like, I'm just going to send Alex Russell a DM on Twitter and see what happens. Because I had a fever and I wasn't clearly thinking straight. I did it and I stopped working. Then two hours later, I saw a DM back from him that said he'd love to be on the show. I remember handing my phone to my husband being like, "Can you read this to me?" and he said, "Some guy named Alex wants to be on your show." I was like, "Holy crap, this is happening."
What I realized from that moment was a lot of times, you build up the act in your mind so much bigger than it really is. Most people want to talk about what they do and want to talk about the success they've had or learnings that they've had, especially if you're in the marketing and tech space. The only thing preventing you from getting those people on the show is asking.
All I did in that DM to have is just fangirl over the work he's done. I really know his work. I kind of mentioned a couple of things and why I want to be on the show. I name-dropped a couple of big brands—Simon Property Groups, Aetna, and AT&T that have already been on the show. I think we had had Lowe’s on by then, too. I gave some credibility, and he responded and said he would love to be a guest.
That was the moment I realized, wait, I can ask literally anyone. If I've done my homework and I know what I want them to ask about—that's one thing that I always do, too. I reach out with something very specific I want to talk about. It's something that I know they're an expert from, they've spoken before, I've seen them tweet a lot about, or posted on LinkedIn a lot about that. I know they're passionate because people want to talk about what they're passionate about.
From there, I just started asking more. The other thing I did that culminated a lot with the conversation I had Alex is at the end of the episode I asked him. He was fantastic. Who else do you think would be a great guest on the show? He gave me three names—people at Microsoft, people at Samsung, and sent me over their emails and said, "Hey, just let them know I recommended you." I did that, and then they immediately booked to be on the show.
Now I have Samsung and Microsoft on the show, which made it easier to get Amazon on the show, which made it easier to get MGM, Crayola, and GE. If you look at our list of guests post the initial launch, I didn't know any of them. I don't know any of these people at these brands, but all I did was ask and ask in a way that was unique and compelling.
I don't have a boilerplate template I use. It's highly personalized when I outreach. I do a lot of DM's on Twitter or LinkedIn, depending on where they're most active. I also do stuff via email. I've sent direct mail before to some of our bigger fish that I want to catch just to try and be different and stand out because all I'm asking for is an hour of your time for you to share your story and give you a platform to do that.
Ben: Yeah, that's incredible. Something interesting about that is like if you didn't know those people before, you do now. There is no way to ever get to know anybody without someone making an initial outreach of some sort. Just a simple hello or just even a basic invitation to just ask people to talk about what they know. When you put it that way, it doesn't seem like such a big scary thing.
Stephanie: A big act, right?
Stephen: That's part of the reason why I joke. I don't know if it would have happened if I didn't have a fever because I was in this fever and induced stupor where I was like, this is a good idea. Back then logical Stephanie would have been absolutely not. We're not ready for this. I would have over-thought what the message was going to be. It just opened up my eyes to there is nothing holding you back except yourself.
If I didn't have a couple of bigger brands on the show, would it have been harder to get Google on? 100% yes. I'm not naive about that. But I also realize asking every guest who's on the show, not just who is on my network, but who's in their network because they may know someone at a bigger show that can help me get someone else on.
I just had that happen with a guest who's been on the show before who suggested I reach out to a colleague he used to work with who has a really high-profile job at a Fortune 100 company in marketing. He was like, just let them know I recommended you, or I'm happy to connect the two of you. I think he'd be a great guest. That type of stuff is really where it’s at, but you never can get there if you don't at least make the ask. What's the worst someone can say, no or not respond? What have you lost? Nothing.
Ben: That literally is the worst thing that can happen.
Ben: They're not going to come back at you with a vicious insult or just anything. I think that's so important to remember. There's really nothing scary about it.
Stephanie: There isn't, and so many people want to tell their story and want a platform to do that. There isn't always a way to do that’s easy for them, especially if you think about the world we live in today. A lot of those people would be on stage at major speaking events throughout the year. Now that's taken away (for the most part). Yeah, there are virtual events, but even that is different. Podcasting is a great way to reach out to those people who are maybe unable to tell their story or share their success to be able to do it.
Ben: A point that comes up in this conversation and something important to reiterate is that reaching out to people you look up to or people who are important or busy is a lot less scary than it might feel once you just put yourself out there and get started. People love sharing what they know. Odds are, if you ask enough people politely, you'll start to get some yeses which will turn into more yeses as your network and your confidence grows. It may seem simple, but if you're on the fence about reaching out to your dream podcast guest, just go for it and see what happens. You'll be glad you did. Now, back to Stephanie.
Putting ourselves in a listener’s shoes and let's say their company has an existing podcast, or maybe it's something that is on the roadmap that is something they're going to start doing, or they're going to launch one in the future. Let's say that maybe this individual—or whoever is going to have this up—don't have what they feel could be really interesting connections to get started. They're starting from like nothing. How would you recommend that person get started just finding anybody, just funding anyone who might be interesting to get on their show?
Stephanie: One of the things that I did that was really helpful is we had that dream list, but I also created a list of all the brands I admire. For us, we're looking at marketers. I’m looking at brands where I think their marketing is really top-notch, whether that specific to what they're doing on mobile, digital, social, et cetera.
I started to create this list and then looked at who the leaders of that space. As an example, I'm a big fan of what MGM Resorts did around Welcome to the Show and that whole campaign. It was smart in how they've integrated like HR and employees and to bring this experience for customers. For that, I needed to talk to their CMO. That became really clear.
At other companies such as Lowe's. One of the things that I think Lowe's has done really, really well has been their native mobile app and how easy it is to find things in store. I reached out to their head of UI, UX to have to tell that story.
Part of it is, who is the list of brands where you think they have a compelling story to tell? Then how do you then start to do research? You can just use LinkedIn for this to find the people that are best equipped to tell that story. Sometimes it's very obvious with titles and other times it's not.
I can’t tell you there haven’t been times when I've reached out to someone and said, hey, I'd love to have you on the show to talk about this. You think that makes sense based on their title and they respond back, well, actually, that would be my colleague Bob. And then make an introduction there, which is really helpful as well.
But who do you want to tell the stories of? Or flip that script a little bit and say, what are the stories that you want to tell, and how do you put a request out there for people to recommend others? I've done that before where I say, okay, I want to tell these stories. If you or someone else on your network you think would be a great guest on the show to tell that, let me know. You'll be surprised at the number of people that sometimes comment on a LinkedIn thread, but more often than not send you a DM on LinkedIn and actually want to just like recommend themselves.
Sometimes you get people that you probably don't want on the show recommended as well as a lot of people that would be great guests. It's kind of like a Catch-22. But I would also say, what's interesting is with every guest, you never know what you're going to get until you get in the conversation.
Even some guests that you think, hey, their company is great, what they're doing is great—may not have to be an engaging conversation to have or to listen to. Then other people where it might be a smaller company that is still doing some really cool things might be one of the best guests to listen to because their story is so great. You can learn so much from that, and your listeners will be able to.
It's figuring out what stories do you want to tell and then how do we find the companies or the people that can tell those stories? I think that's what a lot of people are missing from podcasting. They have a show where there's a concept, but they haven't thought about—our show, Real Marketers, is focused on people who move fast, ask forgiveness, not permission, and get [...] done. I'm very specific about the type of people I want on the show.
If you work at a larger company and you move slowly, and fast to you is a six-month website implementation, you're probably not the right guest for me. But if you're someone at a big company who says, I'm focused all day about how do I get around procurement. I want to talk to you about that. I want to hear what you're doing and talk about your story.
Part of it is figuring that out and not just saying, I want to get these brands on it. Where are the stories you want to tell? Doing some of that homework and then finding the right people because I will tell you, you will be a lot more successful if you reach out to someone with a specific request of what you want them to talk about than a generic one around, can you just come on the show? Because that is a lot of uncertainty for them. They have no idea what you need, what you want to ask them about, and if they're an expert on it, versus if I said, hey, could you come on the show and talk to you about being a podcast host and how you got started? You would probably be completely on board with that because you do that, and you feel like you're an expert on that.
Ben: Yeah, I think that's such a great point because as long as you make it easy for somebody to talk to you, they have way less reason to say no.
Ben: It's no work for them. Whereas it might be a little bit of work if they have to think of the topic themselves or maybe it could be off-putting for them (in a sense) if it doesn't sound like you know what you want out of that conversation. But as long as you've got those pieces, you've got to figure it out for them. I imagine your success rate is going to be a lot higher than what some folks might imagine.
Stephanie: It is, and part of it too is to your point around having that specific request. If I asked you, can you come to the show and talk about podcast hosting, what you've experienced, and the pros and cons? Or tell us about the technologies. You don't have to do prep work for that. You know all about it. You can just have a conversation. That's another big thing that I found is it's easier for people to say yes when they don't feel like they have to pull a bunch of data. They have to do a bunch of legwork to be on your show, where they can just talk about things that they are so passionate about and know front and back.
You have no reason for them to say no. I use a separate Calendly link. I love podcast hosts that use that because if they're interested, they can literally click on it, book a time, and it's done. There's not like this email stream back and forth. The customer experience officer at TGI Friday’s. I did one outreach to him and I found out he wanted to be on the show because he immediately booked via Calendly. Didn't respond to my email, and just when I hadn't booked it via Calendly, which was great.
Ben: Yeah, it's super-efficient. We use Calendly on our show as well. I love it because it takes so many headaches of scheduling. I don't think I'm good enough at playing Tetris with my calendar to make all the time slots and such wind up without potentially getting double-booked or some such thing. Yeah, definitely love that tip. I would co-sign the advice to just use Calendly there.
The last question I'll throw your way, what would you say to marketers who—even after listening to all this conversation to this point—still think they're too small, they're not well-known enough, they're not in an interesting enough industry, or whatever other excuse there is for not just going for it? What would you say to them?
Stephanie: Stop it. Just stop. You're your own worst enemy. The only person that's holding you back is yourself and I would think a couple of things about it. If you don't feel like you have an exciting enough industry or an exciting enough topic to get good and large guests on, then there's a problem with what you're doing. First of all, fix that problem.
Your show is flawed or maybe you're not passionate about the work that you're doing, which is a huge problem. Because if you're not passionate, you're not going to get other people to come to talk to you about things that they're passionate about. You have to love what you do and love the subject that you're talking about is most important for a host and a show. Sometimes, as a marketer, that may not mean that you're not the best host and someone else in your company should be. Start with the foundation.
Then the other part is what are your goals with us? If your goals are to promote your brand, create brand awareness, align your brand with other bigger brands, which is a huge untapped advantage for podcasts, especially for smaller companies.
Our goal is not to generate leads. I've been very clear on day one. I don't want to create a lead. We're not going to create demo requests from this. We're 100% going to tell the stories and show our expertise in the space. Connect our brand with other big brands that are larger than us because that creates a perception that's really, really powerful. And just continue to position us as thought leaders and experts in digital marketing and mobile, and create this brand personality that we've been trying to communicate.
For marketers who are worried about doing all those things, you're probably not the right host, so let's fix that. Then two, if you're like, okay, I am the right host. I'm just nervous. Stop it. Stop putting yourself back, make a list, spend an afternoon, and do some outreach. I promise you, the first time someone says, yes, you will feel so much more confident. Someone will say yes.
If you reach out to 10 people, you're not going to get ten yeses. But don't be surprised if you get two or three. If you—just by nature—are a more conservative person or in a more conservative industry and there are a lot of people out there that are, think about how you grow it. It's the same way as you think about yourself and PR efforts. You can't get into Fast Company and Fortune right away. You've got to do some things with smaller publications, medium size before you get noticed by the bigger players. Same thing.
If you are more conservative and you don't want to swing for the fences and the big names right away, think about who is bigger than you? Let's work on getting those people on the show. Once you get those people on the show, you can then start to get people that are bigger than them on the show and it creates this nice little cascading effect, which is really helpful. That would be my next recommendation. If you're not willing to just go out there and try it. I think you should just create a ladder as you get bigger and bigger and bigger.
Ben: Yeah, I think that's such good advice, and I think that lays things out clearly just using that ladder analogy. Just grab one wrong after the other. Just one step at a time.
Stephanie: Exactly. The other thing I’d throw out there that’s another untapped opportunity for marketers. Let's say your networks aren't very large or it's not filled with the names and the brands that you'd want to get on the show, what about your network’s network? Who are people you know really well? Go look at their connections on LinkedIn? Do they know someone at one of those locations? Can they make an introduction? I think that's a sales tactic and a marketing tactic that's usually underutilized.
It's not uncommon for myself or even my sales team to reach out to a network connection they have and say, hey, I noticed that you know these four people. Do you know them well enough for you to be willing to introduce us? Most of the time people say yes. Or they might say, out of the four people, I actually know two of them really well and the other two I met at a conference. I don't really know them well enough to introduce you, but I'll do the two that I do now. That's another great opportunity and way to use your network and your network's network.
Ben: Yeah, absolutely. That's excellent advice. Something that makes me think of or where that thought leads my mind is just because you don't know a lot of people right now doesn't mean you're not ever going to. It's got to start somewhere.
Stephanie: It does. I always connect with all of the people I have on the show on LinkedIn. I also do a couple of different things that are helpful. Obviously, promote the episode, but then typically around 25 episodes in a year, a couple of milestones that we've done. I’ll list out a huge thank you to all the guests that have been on the show. I literally will list all their names and mention them and include the companies. Because now, while you might have been episode 10, a year later on episode 50, you're mentioned again. Do you know what they do? They retweet it, they share it, and their network sees it. It creates this ongoing promotional flywheel that helps you get your show [...] then in turn makes more people be on it.
Ben: Yeah, absolutely no disagreements here on any of that. But like I said, that's the last question I had to throw your way. But before I let you go, is there anything else you'd want to leave our audience with?
Stephanie: I would say if you haven't started a podcast, I would seriously consider it, and I would be really strategic about what the purpose of it is. There are a lot of shows out there. I think there's room for more shows. Not everyone needs another marketing show or another AVM or B2B marketing show.
What is your specific niche going to be? What are the stories that you're going to tell, and how do you stand out from those? And then how can you go out and really think about the show format and launch successfully with a couple of three to four really good episodes?
If you do that, you're going to create a following, which will get people to listen to it, but then also people want to be on it. So you have to have both. You have to have great engaging conversations with really great guests to have a show that continues to work. Also, one that you as a host enjoy doing every week, or every two weeks (whatever your cadence is). Because if you don't' love it, people don't tell you podcasting is exhausting sometimes.
It's worth it to get people on the show, get things scheduled, to have interviews, and to do all the post-production. Even if you have a team that helps you out, there's a lot of work to it. You have to love what you do. You have to want to do it, or you're going to slip and you're not going to have consistency. The death of any show is not having consistent publishing.
Ben was the Inbound Marketing Director at CoSchedule. His specialties include content strategy, SEO, copywriting, and more. When he's not hard at work helping people do better marketing, he can be found cross-country skiing with his wife and their dog.